Education vote today, parent group rallies for more school funding

Students from the Juneau Charter School participate in a rally on the Capitol steps organized by the Great Alaska Schools coalition, April 4, 2014. (Photo by Skip Gray/Gavel Alaska)

Students from the Juneau Charter School participate in a rally on the Capitol steps organized by the Great Alaska Schools coalition, April 4, 2014. (Photo by Skip Gray/Gavel Alaska)

The Alaska State House has delayed its vote on an omnibus education bill to Monday, giving lawmakers more time to wrestle with questions over teacher retirement policy and treatment of rural schools. But even though debate on the bill was delayed, that did not stop a crowd of parents from gathering on the Capitol steps to rally for more education funding.

For the past week, there have been a lot of parents running around the State Capitol letting their legislators know they want more money put into education. They’ve united under the name “Great Alaska Schools,” and they describe themselves as a coalition of 1,500 families that support the public system.

On Friday, they stopped going door-to-door and went out into the street instead. They had one message: “B-S-A! Raise today!”

Cat Coward is a physical therapist, a jazz singer, and a mom to an 8th grade student at Romig Middle School in Anchorage. She flew down for the Juneau rally, because she has seen changes in the quality of education at Romig as the budget has been strained.

“They’re losing counselors there. Class sizes are increasing,” says Coward.

Coward says the proposals that have gotten traction in the Legislature don’t do enough to offset the cuts she’s seeing. The bill that the House is considering bumps the base student allocation — or the amount of money schools get per kid — by $300 spread out over the next three years.

Coward believes they should double that. She says that kind of increase to the base student allocation amounts to a little more than one percent of the overall budget.

“Our kids who are in school right now will never get another chance for this. This is it, this is the only time to fund these kids,” says Coward. “You know, we can put money at other capital projects or other things later, but we can never invest in these children ever again.”

To illustrate their point, Great Alaska Schools brought plenty of pie to their rally, to symbolize that they just want a larger cut of the fiscal one. There was blueberry, apple, you name it. And when the rally was over, Coward and other participants dropped off slices to their legislators in hopes that it would sweeten them up before Monday.

Watch the rally courtesy of Gavel Alaska.

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